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SKEHAN v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BLOOMSBURG STATE CO

July 20, 1977

Dr. Joseph T. SKEHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BLOOMSBURG STATE COLLEGE et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

 MUIR, District Judge.

 Skehan, formerly an Associate Professor at Bloomsburg State College, has brought this action alleging that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights by terminating his employment as a professor at the College in October, 1970 and by failing to renew his contract for the 1971-1972 academic year. The history of this case is set forth in this Court' s Opinion of May 18, 1977, 431 F. Supp. 1379. In 1973, this Court found that Skehan's constitutional rights pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment were violated by his termination as a member of the faculty without a prior hearing. 358 F. Supp. 430 (M.D.Pa.1973). In its opinion of May 18, 1977, this Court concluded that the decision not to renew Skehan's contract for the academic year 1971-1972 without affording him the procedures prescribed by Article 5e *fn1" of the Statement of Policy of Bloomsburg State College violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also stated in its opinion that the only Defendant from whom Skehan sought monetary damages had acted in good faith and in a reasonable manner and therefore was protected by the doctrine of official immunity as set forth in Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 95 S. Ct. 992, 43 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1975). The only issues remaining in this litigation are whether Skehan is entitled to any equitable relief as the result of the two violations of his constitutional rights, whether his attorneys should be awarded part or all of the $87,288.50 claimed as attorney's fees and whether Skehan should recover expenses and costs from the Defendants. The following are the Court's findings of fact, its discussion of these issues, and its conclusions of law concerning these matters.

 II. Findings of Fact.

 1. On October 10, 1972, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Defendants with a claim that they had violated his constitutional rights by their failure to provide him a hearing prior to his termination on October 17, 1970.

 2. One of the statutes under which Plaintiff brought suit was 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Undisputed)

 3. Plaintiff prevailed in this Court in 1973 on his claim that Defendants violated his due process rights by their failure to provide him a hearing prior to his termination. (Undisputed)

 4. Plaintiff was represented in these initial proceedings in this Court by Harry Lore. (Undisputed)

 5. Plaintiff appealed the decision of this Court of May 9, 1973 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. (Undisputed)

 6. Plaintiff prevailed in the Court of Appeals in that the case was remanded to this Court for findings as to whether Defendants had violated his First Amendment and due process rights in the course of their decision not to renew his contract and in that the Court of Appeals upheld this Court's ruling that Plaintiff's due process rights had been violated by Defendants' failure to provide him with a hearing prior to termination.

 7. The Court of Appeals also determined that Defendants were immune from liability to Plaintiff in damages because they were engaged in discretionary functions. (Undisputed)

 8. Plaintiff was represented in the proceedings in the Court of Appeals in 1973-1974 by Michael H. Gottesman who was assisted by his associate, Dennis D. Clark.

 9. Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in 1974 on the issues of sovereign immunity, official immunity and attorneys' fees. (Undisputed)

 10. The Supreme Court, which granted Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded for further consideration on the issues of official immunity and attorney's fees.

 11. Plaintiff was represented in the proceedings in the Supreme Court in 1974 and 1975 by Bruce J. Terris.

 12. Plaintiff prevailed in the Court of Appeals in 1976 in that the Court of Appeals ruled that Plaintiff was entitled to an award of damages if the individual defendants did not meet their burden of proof on official immunity and that Plaintiff was entitled to an award of attorney's fees if Defendants had litigated in bad faith.

 13. Michael H. Gottesman and Dennis D. Clark represented Plaintiff in 1975-1976 in the proceedings on remand to the Court of Appeals from the Supreme Court. (Undisputed)

 14. Plaintiff prevailed in the proceedings in this Court on remand in 1976 and 1977 in that this Court has determined that Defendants violated Plaintiff's due process rights by failing in the course of their decision not to renew his contract beyond the 1970-1971 academic year to provide him with the procedures to which his contract entitled him.

 15. Robert B. Elion and Robert B. Wayne represented Plaintiff initially in proceedings in this Court in 1976 on remand from the Court of Appeals. (Undisputed)

 16. After Plaintiff's case was remanded to this Court in 1976, Defendants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on the questions whether the Court of Appeals had ruled correctly on the issues of the sovereign immunity, official immunity and attorney's fees. (Undisputed)

 17. Defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court on November 29, 1976.

 18. Dennis D. Clark represented plaintiff-respondent before the Supreme Court in response to Defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari. (Undisputed)

 19. Bruce J. Terris represented Plaintiff during proceedings in this Court after the withdrawal of Robert B. Elion and Robert B. Wayne as counsel for Plaintiff; associates of Mr. Terris who assisted him during these proceedings were Eleanor M. Granger, Zona F. Hostetler, Nathalie V. Black, Lonnie C. Von Renner, Edward C. Comer and Suellen T. Keiner. (Undisputed)

 20. Mr. Terris undertook representation of Plaintiff before this Court in 1976 because passage of the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act was imminent and Plaintiff's right to recover attorney's fees under the Act was contingent on Plaintiff prevailing. (Undisputed)

 21. Plaintiff claims to have incurred legal expenses, other than the fees and expenses of his attorneys, including the cost of travel to and from conferences with his attorneys and the cost of telephone calls to his attorneys in order to assist them in his case.

 22. Plaintiff has submitted an application for an Award of Costs and Attorney's Fees to this Court. (Undisputed)

 23. Plaintiff's application was prepared by Bruce J. Terris and his associates Eleanor M. Granger and Peter J. Eglick. (Undisputed)

 24. Prior to May 1, 1977, Mr. Terris and his associates conferred with and assembled materials from all of the attorneys who have represented Plaintiff from the time the complaint was filed up to the conclusion of the proceedings in this Court; after May 1, 1977, they prepared the application, researched and prepared a trial brief on the award of attorney's fees, prepared findings of fact and conclusions of law, attended a pre-pretrial conference, and represented Plaintiff at the hearing on the application. (Undisputed)

 25. At the present time there is no Committee on Professional Affairs at Bloomsburg State College (BSC).

 26. The Statement of Policy of Continuous Employment and Academic Freedom at Bloomsburg State College has been superseded by a collective bargaining agreement between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 27. The collective bargaining agreement mentioned in the preceding paragraph went into effect on September 1, 1974, and is in effect at the present time.

 28. Defendants were the prevailing party with respect to the venue issue raised in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where this ...


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